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Mi Chamocha? A Poem to Help Set Your Prayers in Motion

082313_jews_prayer_lgwho is like you
who created heaven and earth
from the big bang to the smallest subatomic particle

who is like you
who set the planets in motion
and brought light to their moons

who is like you
who painted the sky blue
and gave us the means to appreciate it

who is like you
who rustled up the air we breathe
and the earth we walk on

who gave us legs to stand on
hands to touch
a face to love

who is like you
making yourself present
in our deepest conversations
giving us children to love and love us
parents, brothers, and sisters

who is like you
who has given us Torah
to delve into and argue about
a history to become part of
stories to tell and retell

who is like you
one and one only
indivisible, radiant and dark,
near and far, inside and everywhere
invisible to some, visible to others
spectacular in both mystery and obviousness

who and who else is like you
who Tikkunei Zohar says
is knowable and unknowable
appearing to permeate all of creation—
manifesting ten supernal qualities
yet remaining single and solitary
though not as we understand single and solitary

who indeed is like you
who allows dissent and disbelief
even as you command us in so many ways
who has plotted our destiny
yet given us the freedom to choose
who to a rare few display glory in a continuous array of light
to others in an array of sparks
to still others in one spark that illuminates an entire lifetime
and to still others in darkness and death

who is like you
whom we seek from birth to death
from whom we take life
to whom we give our lives

c 2015 Henry Rasof

This mi chamocha liturgical poem (or piyyut, as you know by now if you read the notes to these poems) can go somewhere after the traditional mi chamocha prayer (Ex. 15.11, “Who is like You, O Lord?”) and before Ex. 15.18 (“The Lord will reign forever and ever”). I say “somewhere,” because the liturgical reference sources are inconsistent. Personally, I like the poem after the first biblical passage, but it also could go just before or perhaps elsewhere among these passages. If you want to try to determine a more “right” place (if it exists) and read Hebrew, you might look at Dan Pagis, Yotzer: Its Emergence and Development (Jerusalem: Magnes). (Biblical quotations are from the JPS Translation.)

If you wish to write your own mi chamocha, you might start with a very short poem–say, four lines (or even just two, which could be a chant a la Rabbi Shefa Gold). Or, try something with a name acrostic–the first letter of each line is a letter of your first or last name (or both). Why do you think poets put their names into their poems?

About Henry Rasof

I have been writing poetry for over fifty years. During this time, I have worked as a musician, chef, book acquisitions editor, and creative-writing instructor.

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